Here is my complete email exchange with Elias Shams of Awesome DC, unedited and with only the slightest sprinkling of commentary. After this exchange, the conversation moved to Facebook, as detailed by We Love DC.
When you’re done reading, maybe you should go rate Elias on “Awesomize”, his own site.
I was googling “tech events” to see how my own sites rank for the term, and saw that someone else had started posting a weekly round up of DC tech events.
Then, I looked closer, and noticed that it wasn’t just “DC tech events”, it was DC Tech Events. Someone was copying my email newsletter, stripping out the name and additional copy (which, importantly, includes instructions for submitting events to the calendar) and put the name “Elias Shams” on it.
Looking even closer, there were a whole bunch of articles that we appeared to have been basically stolen articles form sources as mainstream as AOL (source), Yahoo (source), Mashable (source), and the Chicago Tribune (source). For the most part, these articles are published under the name “Elias Shams”.
I decided to start asking questions.
I’ve noticed a good deal (but not all) of the content on your site comes from other sources, always uncredited. Will you remove any articles that can be demonstrated to be stolen?
He responded, pretty quickly:
Ross, I have 6 contributors. Would you point me to the one that you think it’s stolen?
First, your weekly tech events posts (published under your name) are clearly copied and pasted from my weekly newsletter. You even left the tracking links in. I would have been happy (and wouldn’t have dug further) if you had simply credited dctechevents.com.
But here’s one:
http://awesomedc.com/2010/11/01/awesome-iphone-apps-for-alarm-clock/ http://mashable.com/2010/10/31/iphone-alarm-clock-apps/ (you re-ordered the list, but much of the copy is still there)
Here’s another (credit to Kamran Abri): http://awesomedc.com/2010/10/27/most-awesome-restaurants-in-washington-d-c/#more-18536
hmmm…. I think u r right.
They are forwarded to us in a Word file and we simply post it on our site if the serve the Washingtonians (as the site called awesome DC).
It’s not like we make money off of them.
Besides, as long as it serves the Washingtonians in a positive way, why not? how does it hurt you or your business? what am I missing?
Please, check it out and let me know what you think?
I thought I might have stumbled onto a bigger story— some kind of underground wire service serving up plagarized articles.
I’ll definitely look at awesomize.me, it sounds interesting.
So, the Word file you get— is that something you pay for? Who provides it? Could I see some of them? This interests me a lot.
It IS a problem, though and I think it’s one you should understand, as an internet entrepreneur. You’re devaluing the very idea that words, pages, posts, whatever are worth something— even if it’s just credit, or a link.
That, and it’s plagiarism— an actual crime.
Everything that doesn’t involve awesomize.me, is ignored
Please note that awesomize.me is still in beta. we are still collecting feedback from our users. We will be adding a lot more beef to it. If you find a bug somewhere or you find the process challenging, I would love to hear that.
At this point, I decide that the fair thing is to let him know that I’m going to write about this. On the internet. I also gave him one more chance to give up the Black Hat Wire Service that my imagination had conjured.
Just a heads up, but I do plan to write about all this on my blog this week.
If there really is some third party “wire service” providing you with that content, that’s honestly a more interesting story. If you could prove this, and provide me with all the information you have on these people (and samples of the word docs they send you), I would gladly write about that instead of AwesomeDC.
Ross, We never used any wire services. People (mostly Washingtonians) have been sending us their stories and we simply put it up on our site. We have been doing this for fun. So, if you want the list, first, the list is long… very long. second, I am focusing on my gig, awesomize.me, I just don’t have time to prepare such a list.
In short, Awesome DC has been a fun thing for me with the mission to show the good side of DC to the world.
You may want to read the About us section of the site.
I’m sorry, but I just can’t believe “washingtonians” or anyone are sending third party news articles with minor edits (from sources like Mashable, AOL Travel, Yahoo News, and the Chicago Tribune) for you to post. If they are, then it’s on you as publisher to make sure they are original, especially if you plan on publishing it under your own name. If you don’t have time to do that, you really don’t have time to be running this sort of site.
This is even a shade worse than last weeks “Cooks Source” blow-up, because they at least credited the writers they stole from— their mistake was simply not asking for permission.
His final email before we I took the argument to Facebook (which you can see in the We Love DC piece):
I think you are taking this way too seriously. I am guessing because you are a blogger. Although, I own the Awesome DC blog, referring to my about us, http://awesomedc.com/about/, I am not really a blogger. I have been an entrepreneur since early 2000.
My goal with Awesome DC is to make DC look Awesome. That’s all.
If you have time to dig through the legality jumbo stuff, feel free to do so. We are both a Washingtonians we should serve our Washington metro and the Washingtonians. I have been trying to position DC a technology hub. If you can help, great! otherwise, best of luck to you.